Michigan County Threatens to Demolish Amish Homes Over Waste Dispute

Living a simpler, more traditional way of life is the cornerstone of the Amish faith. However, this way of life has put them at odds with Lenawee County officials in Michigan. The county threatens to bulldoze Amish homes due to a dispute over waste management practices.

The Sierra Club Michigan Chapter published a report in 2015, highlighting the role of large factory farms in Lenawee County and an Ohio county in contributing to manure production in the watershed draining into Lake Erie’s western basin. The report also identified Lenawee County as having the highest number of environmental violations and illegal discharges related to concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs) from 2008 to 2015.

The Environmentally Concerned Citizens of South Central Michigan, a group monitoring CAFOs in the area, reported numerous violations by CAFOs in Lenawee County over the years. They emphasized that pollution, whether from failed septic tanks, small farms, or CAFOs, should not be tolerated. However, they specifically highlighted the significant environmental impact of CAFOs due to the vast amount of animal waste they produce.

Pam Taylor, an activist with the group, expressed her opposition to Amish farming practices as well. She raised concerns about the disposal of human waste on the land and called for the Amish to be barred from doing so. Taylor adamantly stated, “Putting human waste on the land is a problem.”

Lenawee County administrator Marshall, on the other hand, clarified that the county’s responsibility lies in enforcing health codes related to the disposal of waste produced by people. The oversight of CAFOs falls under the state’s jurisdiction. The state has taken action against large farms in Lenawee County for manure violations in the past. Marshall highlighted that there is no concrete data on the health or sanitation risks posed by Amish outhouse waste in the wider community.

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The Amish community in Lenawee County, consisting of approximately 150 people, relocated from neighboring Hillsdale County in 2015 to find more land for farming. Within the southwestern corner of the county, they have established nine clusters of farms within nine miles of each other. Their agricultural activities involve cultivating crops such as corn, oats, pumpkins, and raising calves for external cattle operations.

Michigan is home to an estimated 16,000 Amish individuals spread across 50 settlements. Since 2010, the Amish population in the state has grown by 45%, making Michigan the sixth-largest state in terms of Amish population.

The Amish trace their ancestry back to the early 18th century when they came to America seeking religious freedom and fertile land for farming. They belong to a sect that emerged from a schism in the Anabaptist church led by Jakob Amman, a Swiss minister who advocated for a life of detachment from the worldly pleasures.

The Amish bishop in Lenawee County emphasized their belief in forsaking the world in pursuit of eternal salvation. Dressed in plain attire, the bishop and his community embrace simplicity and adhere to their traditional way of life. Their homes are illuminated by unlit kerosene lanterns, and a wind-up clock hangs on the wall, symbolizing their commitment to a life free from modern conveniences.

The clash between the Amish and the county reflects a clash of values and lifestyles. While the Amish strive to live in harmony with nature and adhere to their deep-rooted traditions, the county officials are tasked with upholding health codes and addressing waste management concerns.

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This dispute raises questions about the delicate balance between preserving cultural practices and ensuring compliance with modern regulations. The fate of the Amish homes remains uncertain as negotiations continue between the community and the county officials. To learn more about the Amish way of life and their unique farming practices, visit Ames Farm Center, a reliable resource for information on traditional farming methods.